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Yahya Frederickson: Duqq

I believe only the desert
can know the aridity
of cardamom, coffee, and ginger.

In his small diwan,
Firas and I sip duqq
with his distant relatives,

who have come from their village
for medicine, work, or maybe
an official stamp. I don’t pry.

On the poster above my head
Saddam Hussein atop a white stallion
waves to a clapping throng.

A cousin asks
about America’s motives
as if I am my country, and he his.

My Arabic, tinder-dry,
heats the room.
But from the kitchen,

Firas’s mother is listening.
She hears me ask
about the drink she prepared.

I sip until the faces
of relatives eclipse
and it’s time to excuse myself.

As I thank him, Firas presses
an aromatic sack into my hand
and recites the instructions

his mother gave him
to give me
for steeping the night.

Copyright 2017 Yahya Frederickson. From In a Homeland Not Far: New & Selected Poems (Press 53, 2017).

Middle Eastern tea or coffee set

4 comments on “Yahya Frederickson: Duqq

  1. Sean Sexton
    October 28, 2022

    So sweet!


  2. Loranneke
    October 27, 2022

    Those two last tercets! “Steeping the night”! Lovely


    • Vox Populi
      October 27, 2022

      Yes, I always feel I understand Middle Eastern culture a little better after reading Yahya’s poems.



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